Thursday, November 20, 2008

eco this eco that

Crow here. The nice thing about having a pair of wings is not having to get passports, earn money for plane fares or suffer the indignity of having to remove our shoes or prosthetic bits when we pass through Security. Speaking of which, a number of my friends are feeling very insecure nowadays and this is a big part of the reason:

"With the possible exception of the rat, humans are now the most numerous mammal on earth"!

I've been traveling a lot these last few years and I've met some pretty fascinating characters of the human and non-human variety. There are always interesting things to learn and as you know, my friend susan has given me an open invitation to share my findings with whoever drops by to visit.

Of the six billion people in the world maybe a billion lead a decent lifestyle; of this billion maybe half can be considered middle class; of this 250 million maybe 100 million earn over $90k a year. Of this 100 million maybe 10 million are close to a million dollars in real wealth or higher. So 10 million out of 6 billion is pretty much the batting average you have achieved using up some terrific non-renewable resources or a 1.6% batting average.

Humans are torn between self interests and group interests. If you define the ultimate group interests as those of society as a whole, then there is clearly a conflict between the two. The focus of this conflict rests with the pursuit of short-term personal gain, which is opposed by the requirement for long-term group survival. The net balance between these two factors determines the nature of economic (and political) systems.

Discussions about nature and the limits it imposes on human society are not new but what's needed are discussions about how to live in some degree of prosperity and avoid ecological collapse. It would be nice if some space was left for the rest of us who share the planet with you. In an effort to provide you more amusement and ourselves more notice, I've started a program to provide silly shoes and funny hats to all the plainer birds and mammals.

The genius of the current capitalist endless growth system is that it offers everyone the promise of stupendous wealth. It depends upon your understanding of wealth, I suppose, but people will put up with pretty miserable lives in the hopes of better lives. Birds such as I and the other creatures I've known simply don't understand this concept since our needs simply involve access to clean air, clear water and a comfy branch to rest on when the day is done.

Now we're running into resource constraints as well as the current economic disaster. It's become obvious that it's physically impossible for the growth to continue forever and, if endless growth is impossible, then at some point the hope of universal wealth must be set aside. People become afraid. That's there's such resistance to ideas like peak oil and climate change - people have to either ignore physical reality or reject the capitalist growth system. Many people would rather ignore reality than give up hope but there may be some relevant ideas we can all consider.

Keep smiling and we'll figure out something. Now I'm off to bake a nice seed cake for susan's birthday tomorrow. Maybe I'll even give her a slice.


  1. Crow, you sound like a socialist. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Susan might end up with an "association" problem if she decides to run for office. Something to think about (and tell Susan I said happy birthday).

  2. You speak of overpopulation like it's a bad thing. Soon there will be 7, 8, 10, 12, 15 billion, all fighting for increasingly limited resources which will inevitably lead to countless famines, plagues and death, and thus, depopulation! So take that, you silly animals, we know what we're doing. Muah.

  3. I've been thinking about the differences between need and want a lot lately.

    Please pass my best birthday wishes on to Susan.

  4. Crow should get a job working for Obama's green team. You could fly to work and they could pay you in peanuts.

    Also, I think Susan might prefer a real cake to the seed kind. But it is the thought that counts.

    Happy Birthday Eve., dear Susan.:-)

  5. Hey Crow... you just reminded of the Naomi Klein book I just finished reading. She opines on the same subject, but takes a much dimmer view. Like you, she sees the fallacy in never-ending wealth accumulation, but argues that those with the wealth view creatures like you and me who live outside their gated communities as expendable.

    Well... even Rome eventually burned down, so I share hope; especially since our birthdates are only two days apart. Please pass on my wishes for a wonderful day.

  6. cdp - Crow baked his cake and flew off again once the champagne had gone. It's true that I may be a socialist but I promise not to run for office.

    randal - I've noticed that every single time there's a major disaster human beings emulate rabbits. Why is that?

    dcup - It's going to be tricky but I've tried to convince Crow not to get all 'Kunstler' on our asses. Thanks for the good wishes.

    lbr - Crow baked his seed cake but once he left I have to admit we fed it to his friends outside and ate the Black Forest cake ourselves :-) He's a cranky bird with a big heart.

    spartacus - 'Shock Doctrine' is probably the single most complete description of what's been going on the past few years. Margaret Atwood 's book 'Oryx & Crake' was a dystopian view of N. America where the gated communities had become fortresses protected from a rampant and enraged populace. I've often wondered how even the super rich plan to keep their children safe. Like Rome, we're seeing this country rot from the inside too.

    I'll be by to return the birthday greeting :-)

  7. I would like the recipe for seed cake please, Crow. But mostly, I'd like a chance to wish Susan a most wonderful birthday. She is just the greatest, isn't she? Thrice gifted. What does one give to a person like that for her birthday? I'll think of something...


  8. Crow, come fly to my house, I have about a billion walnuts on the ground and you will find alot of your kind around so you won't feel at all left out of the abundance!

    and much happiness in the coming year, dear susan...happy birthday to you!

  9. //I've met some pretty fascinating characters of the human and non-human variety//

    Ya, some of the same reasons I blog, too.

  10. I just realized that together, you and I, make crow and weasel. I love that book.

    Dear Susan: I hope that you are having a birthday as special as you are and that this year is filled with all your most secret dreams come true and even more than you dared to dream.
    Much love,
    Weasel who is red.

  11. my friend Dcup said this was a cool place and I should stop by and say happy birthday

    she was right and happy birthday!

  12. To day power in the world is held more by corporations than by governments, notwithstanding the recent meltdown. But it is also true; at the behest of their employees and managers many companies are actively perusing socially environmental responsible business practices. This was evident at a recent conference of 5000 odd where speakers from all over the world in the business areas spoke about the new ethos towards more sustainable business. It does involve a huge philosophical step into a different type of thinking which can be summed up by the need to sacrifice more now (make less now) so that we can be sustainable in the future.
    Of course this type of thinking to embrace sustainability should always have been the case as it is an indictment of our civilized state to think otherwise. The alternative is to give no consideration to sustainability and totally disregard the rights of future generations.
    I like the idea of guiding principles enacted in law and within corporate governance structures of companies. But I also think we are in danger of thinking of ethics and environmental sustainability as something only very highly trained people are capable of thinking about, when it needs to stay in the mainstream of shareholder and stakeholder concerns, acknowledged at every level in the community.

    Its not so much the level of population, (important as that may be) but how that population behaves and can act is a sustainable manner.

    In that respect ts up to everyone.

    best wishes

  13. I have rejected capitalism as my personal saviour. Hasn't everybody by now?

  14. I've been mulling over the question of sustainability, too. Interesting post.

    And I hope Susan had a happy birthday.

  15. pagan sphinx - He mixes up seeds and nuts with lard which is a messy process that leaves his dark feathers shiny and my kitchen a mess. Your friendship is already a most excellent gift.

    randal - Merci beaucoup!

    linda - He'll be over with his friends of the murder (neat name for a flock of crows, eh?). Thanks for the good wishes.

    jimm - Me too!

    lbr - I will have to look for that one since it must have slipped by when I was looking elsewhere. Red and black is a most excellent combination.

    franiam - Thanks so much.

    pidomon - Dcup's got a good track record for being right. Thanks so much for coming by.

    lindsay - There'll be a separate answer for you later. You are a most wise man.

    gullybogan - Crow is dedicated to getting more people to see the light. Glad you already do too.

    nan - It's an important topic - maybe the most important the world faces.

    mathman - Thanks, oh Prince of Pedagogues!

  16. i'm all about self interest. i figure group interests take care of themselves.
    besides, i only agree with the group i agree with. i try to be fair. but i just can't agree with somebody i disagree with.
    of course, i make compromises every day. it's called mutual adjustment. i step to the right to let somebody walk past.
    politically, i'm stepping to the left this time because i'm tired of bumping shoulders with people who stopped caring about important things like balanced budgets, a clean environment and human rights.
    too many toes are being stepped on and i hate limping (it's my self interest again).

  17. Well one piece of good/bad news is that when humans become affluent, without exception the birthrate drops. The good news: if we shared the resources a little better, the population would stabilize.

    The bad news: it usually drops below replacement rate - we might need immigrants from Mars and Venus.

  18. Oh, I just got back from yummy cake at DCup's. :-)

  19. Happy birthday a day late and a dollar short. I'll now dress in my Marilyn Monroe dress and sing in my sultriest voice, Happy... You know the rest. Now were is my piece of cake?

    And I'm a socialist too, may I have some champaign now?

  20. sera - When it gets down to it I'm not a particularly social type either. I liked the idea of the group until the first time I walked along Wall St at lunchtime and got completely freaked about that meaning all these damn human creatures. Something does need to happen to simplify all this shit but I'd prefer it not be a return to the Dark Ages.

    gary - People seem to have a very difficult time believing that access to food, water and education are a more definitive way of slowing population growth than blowing up strangers. It's time to empower women in third world countries as you well know :-)

    pagan sphinx - It was a delicious surprise. Glad you got a piece!

    utah savage - You can join Dcup and me for a glass of the Chateau Mouton Rothschild in that future summer garden :-)

  21. by the way, happy birthday susan!
    i know, i'm a few days late.
    i hope you got way more than you deserved.

  22. sera - I wish you all you wish yourself :-)

  23. I just wanted to drop by and wish you happy stuff till you bust day.

  24. utah - We'll likely be eating macaroni and cheese or something similarly cheap and easily prepared. I'm rather enjoying the freedom from traditional celebration. Skol!